The language of hate, the acts of hate that we have experienced in the last week, months, years.
How do you explain that to your children? How do you help them stand up when they see it or experience it in their own lives?
"One of the things we encourage is to build the capacity for ally-ship," says Jillian Bontke, who is the Austin education director for the Anti-Defamation League. She works with schools on creating "No Place for Hate" groups and cultures "where being the ally is the social norm," she said.
Encouraging children to redirect their peers, making it unacceptable among friends to say hateful things, or having peers come up with solutions to stopping hateful acts is much more effective than having parents or other adults intervene, Bontke said. You want to teach kids that when they see something that feels racist, anti-Semitic or against any group, they don't participate.
Sometimes that means telling the aggressor to stop if they are comfortable doing that. Sometimes it means telling an adult after the fact or being an ally after the fact by sending the victim a kind message afterwards or by talking with them to let them know that you know what just happened is not OK and asking them how they are feeling.
One strategy that can be pretty powerful when language of hate is being used is to ask something as simple as "What do you mean by that?"
Bontke said it's important to establish what their intention was. They might not have intended to be bigoted, but the impact was. And if their intention really was to be hateful, then calling that out is important.
If a child is not comfortable with confrontation in the moment, they can tell an adult about the language that was used.
"You want to assess the situation and make sure you're not putting yourself at risk," Bontke said. But if you are comfortable, "unpack why it was hateful and bigoted and ask the person to stop."
Sometimes, meaningful dialogue isn't possible because the other person isn't willing. Walking away might be the best answer in that moment, Bontke said, but then find allies of friends and adults to help prevent future aggressions.
One of the biggest things parents can do is to model ally-ship, Bontke said. That means not laughing along when bigoted or offensive remarks are made and saying something when someone makes a racial slur. If there's offensive graffiti, it means having it removed.
It also means having open and honest conversations about bias and the language of hate and examining the messages parents send to their kids directly and indirectly.
Bontke suggests using these questions to take stock:
• Are the books we read, the music we listen to, the movies we see, the toys we play with diverse?
• Do we celebrate diversity and cultural differences?
• Do we talk about identity in healthy ways?
• Are we talking with our kids about what is happening at school or after school or what they know about the news of the day?
If hate speech or acts are happening at school, adults can help by talking to children about ways they can stand up to the behavior and by helping them identify who are their allies.
"It can be very empowering for them to see something and then share it at home and then talk to someone at the school," Bontke said. If they are not comfortable doing so, she said, they might be comfortable with a parent talking to someone at school about what is happening.
If the racial aggression persists, parents can keep going up the levels of administration. Each school district has someone who is responsible for addressing racial harassment, Bontke said. In Austin, it's the Cultural Proficiency and Inclusiveness team.
The cycle of hate looks like this, Bontke said: "Words lead to attitudes; attitudes lead to action."
But she said that also can be the cycle of love.
"We want kids to learn to interrupt the hate," she said. "If we can get more and more people doing that, the more inclusive we will be."
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